2024 Legal Rebels: Game-changing AI

  • Print

Robot in an office setting

(Photo illustration by Sara Wadford/ABA Journal)

When it came time to pick this year’s class of ABA Journal and ABA Center for Innovation Legal Rebels, it was hard to ignore the elephant in the room.

In this case, the pachyderm in question burst onto the scene in November 2022, when OpenAI released ChatGPT, a generative AI application built on top of a large language model.

ChatGPT, as well as competitors that have subsequently entered the fray, can process a large amount of information quickly and represents an advance over previous efforts by letting users submit queries in natural language and get responses that mimic human conversation. In other words, it’s like having a supercomputer in the form of an aide or assistant.

Perhaps most impressively, it’s forced a legal industry long known for being risk-averse and reluctant to embrace technology to stand up and take notice. Plenty of other groundbreaking, pioneering and cutting-edge tools have come and gone over the years without making the same impact that generative AI tools have in such a short amount of time.

Obviously, no technology is perfect—especially one still in its infancy like generative AI—and many are waiting for it to mature and improve before integrating it into their practice.

Lady Justice

Yet lawyers see the potential to avoid spending tons of hours on mundane, time-consuming tasks and focus on more important things—or even focus on themselves in ways they could not before. And for people who can’t afford lawyers, the technology could yet be the next best thing, allowing them to navigate a complex and arcane legal system with an intuitive tool that potentially knows more about the law than even the best lawyers and judges.

So it’s probably not a surprise to see that generative AI tools already are disrupting certain areas of the law. As such, for this year’s class of Legal Rebels, the ABA Journal and ABA Center for Innovation are departing from the norm and are not inducting individuals or groups.

Instead, we have decided to name generative AI tools as our 2024 Legal Rebels. This issue will spotlight some of the people who have embraced generative AI and used it to augment, change or improve the practice of law or delivery of legal services in the areas of criminal law, legal practice management, contracts, legal research, e-discovery, legal education and immigration while trying to bridge the massive access-to-justice gap in this country.

Time will tell if generative AI is the real deal or just hype. But right now, it’s a cutting-edge form of technology that’s already in the process of changing the legal profession and the practice of law.

And that’s rebellious.

Legal Rebels Class of 2024

Locked in: Criminal justice startups tap into generative AI’s early promise

Bridging the Gap: Lawyers trying to increase access to justice see promise in generative AI

Helping Hand: Generative AI already is making an impact on legal research and writing

Always on: Will generative AI alleviate burnout or make lawyers more miserable?

Head of the Class: Law schools consider post-ChatGPT coursework

e-Sign on the Dotted Line: When it comes to using generative AI and contracts, the devil is in the details

Age of e-Discovery: Generative AI could revolutionize e-discovery—but buyer beware

Rewiring Entry: How AI could blur the borders of immigration law

This story was originally published in the February-March 2024 issue of the ABA Journal under the headline: “Game Changing: This year’s rebels are generative AI tools like ChatGPT, which have upended the legal industry.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.